5 women hitting new creative heights in 2021

Djamila Knopf
(Image credit: Djamila Knopf)

Today is International Women's Day, when the world celebrates female empowerment and highlights the continued need for equality both at home and professionally. The creative industries, from illustration to 3D, are full of boundary-breaking, talented women who are pushing new levels of creativity. We've decided to shine the spotlight on five of them right here.

These incredible designers and artists all recently gave talks at the 2D and 3D art conference, Vertex. They shared art, design and career advice to help others learn and succeed within the industry – valuable insights if you consider the success these professionals have enjoyed. (Remember to try the best digital art software and 3D modelling software for success of your own.)

Find out more about these awesome women below. And, even better, if you'd like to learn more from these creative trail-blazers, you can access their amazing talks through 'Vertex On Demand'. Head to the Vertex website to find out more.

01. Karla Ortiz

Karla Ortiz

Teysa, Envoy of Ghost for Wizards of the Coast (Image credit: Karla Ortiz)

Karla Ortiz is an award-winning concept artist, illustrator and fine artist who has worked for some of the industry's top names, including Marvel and HBO. Currently working in the film industry, Ortiz's diverse portfolio proves your creativity does not have to stay in a single lane, with Black Panther concept art sitting alongside fantasy illustration and gorgeous quirky portraiture. 

Coming from a family of artists, Ortiz hails collaboration as a key part of creative success and is empowered by feedback from those around her. During her 'Concept Art Drinks' session with three other artists, she explains: "You usually do it with a lot of feedback from your team, your art director, your audience. It's such a collaborative effort and there's no room for that quintessential romanticised version of an artist who's struggling". 

You can check out Ortiz' six tips for success from Vertex 2020 right here (or grab an On Demand ticket to catch up on her talk from this year).

02. Djamila Knopf

Djamila Knopf

Karuizawa (Image credit: Djamila Knopf)

Artist Djamila Knopf evokes serenity and calm with her fantasy illustration projects, which she creates both digitally and by hand. With a focus on creating personal projects, Knopf trained as a teacher before embarking on a career as an independent artist, and though she is now primarily an artist, she still puts her expertise to use in teaching as well. 

Inspired by nature and anime, Knopf is influenced by '90s Japanese pop culture and fantastic stories. Her work is delicate, dreamy and intricate, well thought out and with depth of character. If you'd like to find out how you can apply some of her approach to your own work, we recommend checking out her Vertex talk. There, she discusses exactly how she approaches each stage of her work, from ideas and research to artistic elements like texture, shadows and character.

03. Loish


(Image credit: Loish)

World-renowned artist, illustrator and animator, Loish (Lois van Baarle) says she has been drawing for her whole life (see the proof of this on her website). After discovering digital art at age 15, Loish now creates characters for clients all over the world, has released two books and gives workshops and lectures, too. 

Loish is something of a superstar online, with a dedicated following of over 2.2 million on Instagram. She is truly a trail-blazer in this way, enjoying a level of online success not often seen. But this online engagement does not happen by accident – it has taken years of hard work and a clear social media strategy. We outline her four tips for social media success as shared at Vertex 2021 here.

04. Belle van der Woodsen

Belle van der Woodsen

A Love letter to Paris I (Image credit: Belle van der Woodsen)

London-based 3D artist Belle van der Woodsen is an incredible interiors specialist who creates hyper-realistic renderings for industry leaders. Heavily influenced by her time living in cities around the world, van Der Woodsen uses renderings, photography, film, and immersive VR and AR experiences, with projects like A Love Letter to Paris asking the viewer to truly feel what they are seeing in the visualisations she creates. 

Van der Woodsen places a lot of importance on gathering references and experiences in order to inform design. In her Vertex 2021 talk, 'How To Create Stunning Interior Archviz Scenes', van der Woodsen gives her top tips on how to create unique interior design. These stellar tips could be applied to all areas of design, and include educating your eye (and how to do that), how to gather treat references, among many others. 

05. Lauren Panepinto

Lauren Panepinto

Artwork for Petrovich Trilogy (Image credit: Lauren Panepinto)

Lauren Panepinto truly crosses disciplines within the creative industry. A self-styled 'graphic designer, art director, creative director, writer, teacher, sci-fi fantasy geek, and cocktail nerd', Panetino proves you don't have to pigeon-hole yourself to enjoy success. By designing and art directing book covers for 15 years, plus writing and judging art competitions (including for our sister magazine ImagineFX), she has built up a lot of wisdom to tap into.

All this activity can seem intimidating for those starting out – especially if you feel you're getting nowhere fast. But Panepinto, who has worked with a lot of newer artists, wants to convey that the most important thing for individuals is to remember that everyone moves at a different pace.

"The tortoise beats the hare," she said in her Vertex chat, "you get there when you get there. One of the hardest things about having a creative career is that it takes everyone a different path, a different timeframe, different milestones... You have to find your own path". 

To hear more of Panepinto's advice, and that of all the amazing professionals featured here (and more), head over to the Vertex On Demand page, where you can buy yourself a ticket for £25. 

On Demand Tickets to Vertex 2021: £25 per person

On Demand Tickets to Vertex 2021: £25 per person
Fancy hearing from creatives at Pixar, Lucasfilm and much more? Get On Demand access to all the videos from Vertex, the hottest virtual event for 2D and 3D artists. The show's now over but the Vertex 2021 archive offers an extravaganza of industry insight from across the world of digital art.

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Georgia Coggan

Georgia is lucky enough to be Creative Bloq's Editor. She has been working for Creative Bloq since 2018, starting out as a freelancer writing about all things branding, design, art, tech and creativity – as well as sniffing out genuinely good deals on creative technology. Since becoming Editor, she has been managing the site on a day-to-day basis, helping to shape the diverse content streams CB is known for and leading the team in their own creativity.